The Two Words That Steal Our Joy (And the Two Words That Can Restore It)

The kids were with the grandparents for the night. Which meant we had the perfect opportunity to catch a movie in an actual theater, eat out without cutting the chicken into bite-sized pieces and spend the evening without repeatedly giving instructions to one’s progeny about baths and brushing.

Except, the evening didn’t pan out quite like I’d imagined. We watched the movie – and that signalled the end of date night for the husband. In my mind, the movie was supposed to be followed by a nice dinner, and, perhaps, a walk in the moonlight afterward. I had all the details planned out.

Not wanting to appear needy, I pretended I was fine with calling it a night. Except, inside, I stewed.

“If he cherished me as the Bible says he should, he would have wanted to spend more time with me,” I reasoned in my mind. And then, of course, came the swirl of negative thoughts, till I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

If only you had just suggested dinner out. That would have meant so much to me,” I exploded.

The startled man had no idea that between the movie theatre and our home I had built up a story titled, “Exactly What a Loving Husband Should Do,” in my overly inventive mind.

If only.

Those two words have the power to plunge us into a vortex of disappointment, comparison, and insecurity.

Sometimes it dwells in past disappointments . . .

“If only I had pursued my career and not given up when the baby came along.”

“If only I hadn’t married him when we were so young.”

“If only I hadn’t taken that stupid student loan.”

If only leaves us in a place of regret, blame and, even, condemnation.

More often, if only hinges on comparison. In a world where lives are curated into hors d’oeuvres of awesomeness on social media, comparisons have become part of our DNA.

We see the #lifeisgood or #blessed pictures and wonder why our own lives are so mundane and inadequate.

“If only we had the money to fly to Hawaii,” we think in response to vacation pictures with its three staple ingredients: tanned legs, swimming pools, and margaritas.

We see the anniversary pictures of wedded bliss and the online tributes to spouses and think, “If only my man would bring me breakfast in bed or know that peonies are my favourite flower.”

We see pictures of kitchen renovations with farmhouse sinks and marble countertops and think, “If only I had a kitchen like that or, maybe, just one more room in my house. That’s not asking for much.”

If only weighs our lives against someone else’s make-believe world on social media. And it steals our joy in the process.

But what if we replaced those two words, if only, with two others? What if the words “even if” helped us focus on something greater?

Those two words – even if – take the emphasis off our circumstances. They shift the focus to the character of God.

In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet pleads for God to save His people. But then he concludes with these words:

Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes,
even if the olive tree fails to produce
and the fields yield no food,
even if the sheep pen is empty
and the stalls have no cattle—

Even then,

I will be happy with the Lord.
I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. (Habakkuk 3:17–18)

Even if. Two simple words that teach us that true joy and real contentment is found in God.

Even if I never get to head a company or write a bestseller.

Even if I don’t ever dip my feet in the waters of the Caribbean.

Even if I (fill in the blank for yourself)

Even then I will “find joy in God who saves me.”

If only can steal our joy, but even if can grow joy to where it’s not based on our circumstances, but on who God is.

The Word of God reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

No, God doesn’t want us to pretend we’re thankful for those even if moments sprinkled – sometimes in heavy doses – through our lives. While we may not be able to thank God for all circumstances, we can give thanks in all circumstances to God who is still on the throne and walking with us through the hard stuff.

That’s an even if kind of faith.

 

Photo by Sandis Helvigs on Unsplash

 

An Open Home

In the busyness and blur of my wedding day, apart from my husband’s ugly one-time mustache, there is one thing I remember so clearly. It was from the sermon that was preached at the service. The preacher spoke about making a home and about hospitality. That’s the point that has stuck with me all these years and it is something I’ve been thinking about constantly these days. 

Whether it’s an unannounced surprise visitor or a scheduled appointment for a meal, a guest is always a little extra work. Along with the cheerful greeting, and happy chit-chat comes the need to have a hot meal on the table and extra dishes and laundry. Basically, a little bit of inconvenience. While hospitality is ingrained in us as Indian girls, and we are taught to smile and go about our tasks as gracious hosts, what happens to us when we have to start living hospitality as our lifestyle? This is a question that I have wrestled with. 

In a recent article on The Gospel Coalition website author Jen Wilkin brilliantly explains why hospitality beats entertaining. Reading Jen’s words I realised that we have been taught to entertain our guests flawlessly, but what the Bible talks about is totally different. Paul commands in Romans 12:13 “ . . . Practice hospitality” and 1 Peter 4:9 says “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Hebrews 13:2 reminds us again, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it”. 

Now mind you, entertaining and showing hospitality can appear quite similar, but in their key points, they are worlds apart! Do we see people as inconveniences or as made in the image of God? Do we fret about the carpet or are we thrilled about a new mom who made it to the prayer group with her toddler? Perhaps an effective way to demonstrate God’s love and exemplify Christlike values is to welcome guests home

The book of 3 John talks about this kind of hospitality. It contrasts between Gaius and Diotrephes, two men familiar to John. Gaius was known for his reputation of friendship, generosity and welcoming people into his home. Diotrephes, was a self proclaimed leader who did not reflect God’s values and and was even unwelcoming toward John. As I was studying this book, for the most part I thought that I was like Giaus, generously giving to others. But then the Spirit of God convicted me and I could see parts of me that were like Diotrephes, looking out for “myself”, my “rest time” and my “things”. Honestly, that’s our culture today – one of self-obsession. 

Hospitality doesn’t mind when your guest shows up at the Indian Stretchable Time. It doesn’t mind when your guest throws your prized Ikea fork in the trash thinking it was a disposable fork. It doesn’t mind that the bedsheets and pillow covers are slightly mismatched. It is happy to host the cook and her daughter at the same table when the family eats. Hospitality is glad to chat over just tea or coffee or plain dal, rice and kebabs. Hospitality even says, “Wow you’ve shown up early for the book study, can you finish making this upma that I had started so I can go shower?” It is allowing people into your weakness and weariness, where genuine care can emerge. 

For the most part, hospitality is what people are longing for. The college student who comes for a sleepover is not judging you based on your fancy cutlery. He/she is just happy to be home with you. And if they wake up to your regular worship music playing on your iPad, and see pancakes on the table, or just eat scrambled eggs or idli for breakfast with you, they are absolutely fine with it. 

We have lived under the high standard of entertaining for far too long. But the hospitality that the Bible talks about is full of grace, to the one who extends it and to the one who receives it. 

While I was growing up in Chennai I saw my mum have an open home. Anyone could walk in at any time and my mum was always available for them. She always served them and refreshed them with whatever was available in the house. It didn’t matter who the person was, she served them all with the same joy and reflected the same love that Christ reflected. My mum taught me by example and has been a great role model for me when it comes to hospitality and opening up my home. 

My house is not the cleanest by the farthest stretch of your imagination. My cutlery is not the fanciest and my bedsheets and pillow covers don’t match. Oh there is still plenty of work to do in that area. But my hope is that I’ll always continue to have an open home, for anyone who walks in. That I will refresh others the way Christ refreshes me every time. That I will serve as Christ has served us.

And that is my encouragement for you today. Don’t be bogged down by the weight of entertaining others. Instead just try opening your home, your schedule, your life . . . you might just come across an angel!

 

Photo Credit : Unsplash

Top and Bottom 10 Skills – Stay at Home Mom vs. Bed Rest Study Participant

Recently, a friend posted this article about finding your “opposite job”; the job that has a set of top 10 (most used) and bottom 10 (least used) skills that are opposite to the skills in your job. Shockingly, the database doesn’t include information on the opposite job for a “homemaker with little kids,” so I had to come up with my own.

You know those people who get paid thousands to lie in a bed for weeks as part of NASA studies? Well, a little soul-searching, a little Google-searching, and here it is: My Stay at Home Mom Opposite Job Comparison.

Top 10 Stay at Home Mom Skills

  1. Perform rapid, complex, and constant risk/reward analysis (toddler fun × your alone time ÷ likelihood toddler will fall off the table).
  2. Maintain a logical argument with a 3-year-old. Don’t lose your cool, don’t get confused… Don’t. Let. Her. Break. You.
  3. Use multiple limbs simultaneously (hands washing dishes, leg blocking the baby from the trash can, opposite foot tapping the toddler away from the cookies). Also, kiss an owie.
  4. Eat your meals while getting up to get someone… a sippy cup… more tuna… another strawberry… a dropped fork… a thrown strawberry…
  5. Be mentally ready to wear your messy bun with confidence. Like you did it on purpose instead of throwing it up there at 6:30 am and not touching it since.
  6. Have the physical and psychological characteristics of Duchess Kate, the perfectly poised mom in the killer outfit and the kind smile.
  7. Read a book on how to instill morals, common sense and basic good manners in small people determined to resist all your attempts.
  8. Have lightning-fast Googling thumbs: recipes, necessary ER trips, stopping sibling fights – FIND THE ANSWERS NOW.
  9. Shower while holding an infant, calming a toddler and reminding your 7-year-old to put on underwear.
  10. Complete entire day without sitting down.

Top 10 Bed Rest Study Participant Skills

  1. Lie with your head 6 degrees below your feet.
  2. Maintain a rich thought life in the midst of solitude.
  3. Use multiple limbs to perform normal exercises, proving your physical fitness before lying in bed for weeks.
  4. Eat your meals lying down.
  5. Be mentally ready to spend 70 days in bed.
  6. Have the physical and psychological characteristics of an astronaut.
  7. Take an interesting class to stave off boredom.
  8. Have lightning-fast videogame-playing thumbs, allowing you to effectively play all day despite your feet being raised slightly above your head.
  9. Shower lying down.
  10. Complete entire day without standing up.

Bottom 10 Stay at Home Mom Skills

  1. Sit still.
  2. Have an uninterrupted conversation with an adult.
  3. Stick to the daily routine 100%.
  4. Complete the days’ errands in an hour.
  5. Be a few minutes early for all appointments.
  6. Get uninterrupted sleep.
  7. Feel refreshed when you miraculously sleep 7 hours.
  8. Take an interesting class to stave off boredom (Google: “How to be Kate Middleton”).
  9. Hide from your children (closets, bathrooms, outdoor sheds).
  10. Worry about what other people think of you.

Bottom 10 Bed Rest Study Participant Skills

  1. Wish that you could spend less time in bed.
  2. Wonder why it’s so quiet. Be suspicious.
  3. Draw a fish, dog, cat, horse, fairy, excavator, firetruck, etc. – with accuracy and precision – on demand.
  4. Answer 3,000 questions from a 4-year-old.
  5. Plan dinner.
  6. Do laundry.
  7. Chase a kid through the grocery store while trying to look nonchalant.
  8. Ignore noises in the night, willing them to stop so you can go back to sleep.
  9. Calculate how much your sense of style has declined since you started this job.
  10. Wonder how to balance your identity as “the guy who lies in bed” with the rest of the “real you”.

 

Sources:
Gushanas, Timothy. “Bed Rest FAQs”. NASA, 3 Aug. 2017 22 Sept. 2017 https://www.nasa.gov/analogs/envihab/bed-rest-faqs
“Flat-out working: NASA to pay 18 grand for 70-day sleep study.” RT.Com. Russian Telegraph. 19 Sept. 2003 21 Sept. 2017 https://www.rt.com/news/nasa-pay-bed-study-065/
Curtis, Sophie. “Space scientists are offering volunteers £13,700 to lie in bed for two months.”  Mirror.Co.UK. Mirror. 5 Apr. 2017. 3 Sept. 2017 http://www.mirror.co.uk/science/space-scientists-offering-volunteers-13700-10164435

 

Photo by nomao saeki on Unsplash

 

 

A Letter to My 9-Year-Old Son

Hey kid,

We’re at the halfway point. In another nine years, you’ll be an adult. I have no idea how we got here. And, – I don’t mean to scare you – but we really have no clue how we’ll raise you in the next nine either.

When you made your pink, wrinkly, wailing arrival into our world, your dad and I were first-time parents. We fumbled our way through diapers and discipline, feedings and fusses, baths and bedtime. But God covered our messes with His grace. And He still does. Every single day. Despite our epic goof-ups, you’ve turned out to be a creative, kind-hearted, soulful young man.

We love how you defy “little boy” labels. I’ve never had to explain away your behavior with the weak excuse that “boys will be boys.” We love how you sit on the green armchair in the living room, every fibre of your being absorbed in the latest antics of Calvin and Hobbes. Or how you journey through Narnia with Lucy and her buddies in your wildly creative mind. We love how you can’t wait to get your hands on a piece of paper to effortlessly sketch Simba or Aladdin or one of those weird Pokémon characters.  We love that you hug your grandparents goodbye without being told. We love that you’re super polite — even while playing football. (That gets a little frustrating sometimes, but it shows that you won’t ever carelessly walk all over someone.)

Don’t let this get to your head, boy. There’s a lot of stuff we’re working on. Like how to be nice to your sister, without us reminding you for the 34th time that day. Like how to help with carrying the groceries when I’m weighed down by bags. Like how to chew with your mouth closed. And stand up straight. And not drag your feet. You know the drill, don’t you?

The next nine years, dad and I will be trying to raise a man. That’s what all the books say we should do. What a crazily impossible task for someone who is still figuring out this adulting thing herself.

We want you to keep reading and writing and drawing and creating. When the world tells you to give up those pastimes because there are more important things to do, ignore those voices. Even when the spotlight and the paycheck lie elsewhere.

We want to raise a man who has a firm handshake and good table manners. But we also want him to know that there’s more to life than pleases and thank yous and knowing where to place the silverware. We want to raise a man with heart. Who allows himself to be uncomfortable in order to put someone else at ease. Who reaches deep into his pockets to bless someone else, even when there’s absolutely no reward in it. Who takes a firm stand and always bends the knee. Who goes out of his way — but does not ever get in the way of someone else’s success.

We have big dreams for you, kid. But you shouldn’t pay any attention to them. Pursue your own dreams. Dreams that scare you a little at least. Dreams that are impossible without God.

Meanwhile, I hope in the next nine years we can teach you something. I hope we can show you how to run the race with intention, but also how to embrace the interruptions. I hope we can show you that we definitely don’t have the answers, but we lean on the One who does. I hope we can show you that life makes absolutely no sense — unless you allow God in the picture. Front and centre.

I may be a tad bit biased, but I truly think you’re the best.

Keep being yourself.

Love,

Mama

 

 

Photo Credit : Unsplash

The Joy of Community

I get to be part of this small gang of about six to seven families. It’s a close-knit group, with the families becoming a part of each others’ lives in a very detailed manner.

And therefore, yes, too many people naturally means too many ideas; it’s funny how when we travel, we end up having no food, because by the time everyone comes to a consensus even about having a tea break, it’s almost time for dinner. I remember on our last trip to Jaipur, we couldn’t stop for lunch and by the time we stopped for tea, it was dinner time and again we skipped our evening meal. Laughingly, we termed it as our budget trip —  travelling on an empty stomach. And it’s still something we laugh about because we are all crazy and have accepted each other just the way we are, and that’s the benefit of having a community that you strive with.

In the beginning, when I was newly married, I cared less for a community. My husband and I were like two free birds, going wherever, doing whatever whenever we wanted. And yes, it was all fun — we enjoyed just being the two of us, with no strings attached!

But the true sense of community started sinking in to me when I became pregnant. A few women showered their love on me through simple acts: making a meal for me, or pampering me with baby gifts (at a time when its called nesting). As a woman, I felt the need of having girlfriends who had been through this situation before, people I could talk to. It’s a time when you know you want a friend by your side who knows what you going through physiologically and emotionally. And none better than the girlfriends in your life. I remember squeezing their palms and yelling at my girlfriends from the labour room (you can blame the hormones and oh, the excruciating pain), and yet the gentle comforting touch of one of them saying, “It’s okay, you can do this” or, “Just a little more”, was something that worked wonders.

Before I gave birth, my pregnancy cravings were taken care of every week and my kitchen store was loaded with exciting stuff by these friends. Soon after delivery, one friend dropped in with weeks-worth of food. When I was hit with jaundice, my friend’s mom came in to cook and clean my house. After a while, I could even go to parties and events, safely leaving my baby with one of my girlfriends for an evening.

My life has been blessed by these women whom God has placed in my life. As my husband and I live in a nuclear home, God gave us the joy of living as part of this extended community. We may not be a family by blood, but we are a wider family, held together by the deeper bonds of the blood of Christ. Through these wonderful women, I have experienced and witnessed the love of Christ in the little details of life.

They have helped me begin understanding the value of having a community. The Bible says, “We are made in the image of God”. Therefore, each of us is like Him, not necessarily meaning that God has two eyes and a nose and all those limited physical attributes, but something that goes beyond this. From eternity to eternity, God himself dwells in a community — the Trinity — and we, being in His image, reflect that need and desire for a community as well.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18

Adam looked around and saw there were trees and animals of all kinds, but there was no one whom he could associate with. And so God gave him a community as well. Right from Eden, it has been true: life cannot be lived in isolation. We aren’t made to be Robinson Crusoes, living in one-man self-sustaining nuclear units.

This is one of the beautiful things about India, just the culture of family, large gatherings, people- and amidst all of this; there is a element of unity and acceptance that comes along by having a community that you grow along with.

As women we go through numerous emotions a day, we are filled with thoughts that affect us and our actions – having a bunch of spiritually edifying women sure helps you in your daily walk with God and also in your practical day to day living.

“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” Colossians 3:16

 

 

The Brother I Always Wanted

Having grown up with only a sister for a sibling, I always wished for a brother. And my wish was granted when I married my husband, because his younger brother became mine.

My brother-in-law (henceforth called N) is four years younger than me and about a foot taller. At a gangly 6.4”, he’s like a pole with a loud, carrying voice that could wake the dead. When my daughter was born, I still remember how we’d all loudly shush him the minute he’d enter the house. Otherwise, as soon as he started speaking, you could be sure the baby would wake up!

I’ve been married eight and a half years now, and for the first five years of marriage, N lived with us. When people hear that, they always give me this pitying look filled with sympathy, as if to say, “Oh poor you. What a burden you’ve had to bear.” But if you ask me, I was blessed to have N live with us. I look at those five years as a time that not only brought us closer as a family but also cemented our relationship – his and mine.

Of course, there were days when he got on my nerves, as I’m sure I did on his. But every time I felt self-pity rise in my heart, God would tell me to go back and repair the damage. We had our share of arguments, mostly one-sided from my end because he’d never have a clue why I was annoyed to begin with. He’d patiently listen to every complaint I made and truly change any maddening habit.

Eventually, I learnt to accept him as he is. I always appreciate how far he’d go to accommodate my requests, like taking me to a bistro at 9 p.m. because I had pregnancy cravings to eat sausages! We have long conversations about life and people and he always listens to all my stories. However, having a brother means that I have to also listen to (extremely boring) conversations on sports between him and my husband (since I couldn’t very well contribute, being a complete ignoramus on the subject). Now this was a whole new world to me. I didn’t realise how seriously they took it until I got married. Suddenly my evenings were spent watching “Sports Center” – the most mind-numbingly boring show on TV (I guess that’s how MasterChef feels to men)! I never knew that a significant portion of the population thrived on sports news, and that it’s actually a thing! I would hear long drawn-out arguments about football, cricket, tennis, and Formula 1 racing. Now, after all these years, I have the dubious pleasure of knowing that Klopp is building the Liverpool team along the lines of what Ferguson achieved with Manchester United, that Senna and Schumacher were the all-time greats who raced in an era when a driver’s skill and expertise was tested rather than the car itself, and that Federer is the greatest on the grass court while Nadal reigns supreme on clay. If all that sounded like gibberish to you, don’t worry (though I’m sure when N reads this, he’ll be inordinately pleased with me).

Living with two boys meant having to up my cooking game as well. I still remember how I used to cook approximately 1 kg of chicken, believing it would last at least 3 meals. Only to find to my dismay that it took only one meal to finish the lot! We eventually reached a compromise to ensure food lasted longer – I cooked more and he ate less.

When N moved away to a different city, I missed him but I also knew that it was time for him to make his own way in the world. Nevertheless, I cherish the time we had together. Living in the same house taught me to accept others’ differences, even enjoy them. Being an introvert myself, I found his extroverted buoyancy a bit alarming initially. But gradually, I learnt to see beyond the laughter and inappropriate jokes to the genuinely kind, thoughtful, and sensitive person he is. At times he would use humour to deflect attention from his hurt or pain. So I learnt to ignore the teasing and pranks, pushing him to face his real feelings. He doesn’t always appreciate my interference, but that’s my prerogative as his older sister!

God has placed special men in each of our lives; and when we take the time and effort to understand them, it will bless us.

 

Photo Credit : Unsplash

How to Be a Godly Wife: Lessons from Salsa Class

“You can get your partner to lead however you want; kick him or tell him the next move, but you do not lead!” joked our dance instructor, addressing the women in the salsa class. My husband and I signed up for salsa classes some time ago, and from the very first class I have been amazed at the parallel between dancing and marriage. A healthy Biblical marriage, I’d like to suggest, is a lot like a good dance. Here’s how:

1. The man leads – The man has enormous responsibility. He needs to know his steps, and know how to lead the woman. Based on the tug of his hand or the gentle push of his palm, the woman should know what step he is leading into. A gentleman leads his partner courteously to the dance floor and presents her. He bends to her level, when necessary, so that she can move with ease.

2. The woman submits – There is no shame in submitting; this is the nature of the dance. Submission does not mean that the man is a better dancer. For all you know, the woman may dance better, but the man still gets to lead. Why? Because God’s constitution said so. Can you imagine the utter confusion if the man and woman tried leading at the same time? There would be no dance; it would not be a pleasure to be a part of or a delight to watch, and it could result in serious injury.

3. The woman knows her steps – A woman knows and practices her steps. She can dance solo. When the man tugs her hand a certain way, she moves along with grace and without confusion because she knows her footing. A man is not essential in order for her to be able to do her steps, but when he’s there, she joyfully submits.

4. The woman doesn’t resist – The woman trusts the man’s leadership. Even when she is uncertain about what step he is leading her into, she follows knowing that she will be okay. She knows this dance, and he knows it too. She doesn’t fear.

5. The woman guides with gentleness – When the man messes up, she does not rebuke him harshly or embarrass him in front of others. She doesn’t sound an alarm, each time his imperfections slip through. Instead, with gentleness and a kind smile, she reminds him the right step. She bears with him as he improves without giving in to discouragement. As they keep practicing, they both get better, at leading and submitting, and the dance becomes a source of happiness for them, and a pleasure for others to watch.

There have been times I wished that I was a man so that I could be the leader. But, God thankfully has been helping me to appreciate how He created me. A man who wants to be the kind of husband that pleases God, has a more difficult task than us. A woman is called to joyfully submit to her husband like the church submits to Christ. Now if you are a part of the church, you know how often we fall short. But the man! The man is asked to love like Jesus; no room for imperfection there.

Happy dancing, people!

 

 

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

How Community Refreshes Our Souls

The other day, as we were driving to a friend’s house for dinner, our car began to overheat. This is our first car and with our limited knowledge about cars, we missed the warning signs. We noticed the problem only when smoke began to float up from the hood of our car. We pulled over quickly, not understanding what went wrong, just thankful that we were safe. We found out later that the radiator fan was not working and this led to overheating, causing the coolant to leak. For those like me who are completely ignorant about the inner working of cars, what happened was that there was no way for the car to cool down as the cooling mechanisms failed. This caused overheating, making the car ineffective and even dangerous if left unchecked.

This incident made me think of how each one of us also needs to have ‘cooling agents’ in our life. Often, we can go through life being so busy and occupied that we ignore our need for rest, refreshment and renewal. This can lead to frustration and lack of effectiveness in what God calls us to do. In some cases, it can even lead to burn out. It is important to make time to refresh our bodies, minds and souls for us to function optimally – physically, mentally and spiritually. How we do this may differ for each one of us, but we need to be intentional about it and be able to recognise signs of overheating in our lives.

This is a truth that has revisited me in the recently. This past month has been exhausting in so many ways. I often struggle to say “no” to people, but my exhaustion led me to decline even the invitations that would normally excite me. I would wake up tired, drag myself through the day and go to bed exhausted. On some days, I was snappy and unpleasant to be around. My productivity kept decreasing while my stress levels kept increasing.

It was only after all this that I realized how much I needed to be refreshed. I thought about it and began to identify what refreshes me.

Music is one of those things. There’s something about music that makes my weary body come alive. Singing with friends makes my face light up. And lifting my voice to God in worship and song refreshes me instantly and my cares begin to melt away. My husband and I often steal some time to worship God and pray together after the kids are asleep. Pouring my heart out to the Lord in song or prayer relieves my stress and fills me with His peace.

Family is another blessing that helps refresh me. There is nothing more pleasant than watching my daughters play and care for each other. I love the sound of their laughter and their cheerful songs. Being able to spend time with them helps me see glimpses of the beauty of God’s creation and I marvel at how wonderfully He has made each one of us.

But one medium of refreshment that has been on my mind lately is the precious friendships that God has given me. I’m blessed to be part of a loving and serving community. Here are a few examples of how they bless me and enrich my life.

They’ve accepted me as I am. I can relax and unwind, knowing I am accepted just as I am. A family that we love dearly moved to our city a few months ago and meeting them is always such a joy. We know we are loved and that their home and hearts are always open to us, no matter what. When we part ways, we always feel so refreshed and encouraged by their love for us and for the Lord.

They walk with us through life’s circumstances. I am so refreshed and encouraged by the lovely women the Lord has brought into my life. They’ve loved and supported me and my family, helped me with parenting advice, encouraged me to be a better wife, and been there in person or are just a call/text message away whatever my question or struggle may be.

“The heart is delighted by the fragrance of oil and sweet perfumes, and in just the same way, the soul is sweetened by the wise counsel of a friend” (Proverbs 27:9).

They pray for us. We are indebted to our families and friends who have invested in our lives in such a powerful way. Though often unseen, prayer is one of the most precious gifts one can give and our hearts are encouraged knowing someone is praying for us.

They understood my untold needs and helped out wherever they could. We’ve enjoyed people stepping in and helping out in many ways – with the dishes, bringing food for our bible study meeting, reading to our kids and babysitting them when I needed a break, or texting me to ask what help I needed, and even taking care of us in times of illness. A helping hand gives great comfort to the heart.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that these wonderful people refresh my soul because they are showing me Christlike love in different ways. The love I am experiencing is because of He who is living in them. Jesus loves me as I am, unconditionally, even dying for me when I lived in sin and darkness, in enmity with God. I am His child and I face no more condemnation, because I am fully accepted in Christ. He walks with me and I am sealed with His spirit till the day of redemption. Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 tell me that Jesus is now at the right hand of God, interceding for me. He is my ever present help in trouble, the One who can supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.

As I think of the friends I have and the people whose lives God has placed me in, I wonder if I am a source of refreshment to them. I hope and pray that as a child of the Lord, the love of Jesus may overflow from my life to the lives of the people I interact with, and that they may leave feeling refreshed, giving Him glory.

Have you been a source of refreshment to someone lately, through Christ who lives in you?

 

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

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